Sunday, September 29, 2013

You Know, I Thought This Redshirts Guy Was Familiar...

There was this article I read a few years back - I think TBogg over on Firedoglake website highlighted it or something, or maybe on Balloon Juice - about the three primary types of political ideology in the United States.  Liberal, Conservative, and Libertarian.  And how the blog writer despised all three.

It was titled "I Hate Your Politics."

It was hilarious.  It oversimplified the political traits of all three, true, but sarcasm or satire work best when it's correct on the details.  I could copy/paste some of the article quotes from there to here, but that wouldn't be fair to you.  You HAVE TO READ THE WHOLE THING.  Click that link above.  Read it.  Learn it.  Live it.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll become a part of you.  Then come back here because I crave your attention and still have a few more things to say.

(insert chamber music here).

Okay, you back?  ...oh okay... quick bathroom break, see you in three minutes...

(awkward wait)

Anyway, so here I was about a month ago reading up on the Hugo Award winners - as both a librarian and a sci-fi / comic book geek, I have an interest - and I see the winning novel this year was Redshirts, a meta-fictional delving into the lives of the ill-fated crew members who tend to die on science fiction space opera shows.  And the author's name is John Scalzi.

And I think to myself Wait, I know this guy.

I admit I don't read as much science fiction lit as I should in order to keep my geek cred fresh - partly because my collection management duties focus more on non-fiction - so I hadn't really noticed that Scalzi has been penning a few good novels here and there (I'd been reading more Iain M. Banks and Terry Pratchett lately, so that's my excuse).  I merely recognized the name as someone who'd written a blog entry about politics that I recalled was twisted and funny.

So, yeah, I go diving back in and find that I've got the Whatever article still saved as a bookmark on my browser.  And yeah, it's him.

And so now, a lot of things about what Scalzi wrote about libertarians makes a whole shitload of sense.

Here, I will copy and paste this part:

Never got over the fact they weren't the illegitimate children of Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand; currently punishing the rest of us for it. Unusually smug for a political philosophy that’s never gotten anyone elected for anything above the local water board...  Blissfully clueless that Libertarianism is just great as long as it doesn't actually involve real live humans... Libertarians blog with a frequency that makes one wonder if they’re actually employed somewhere or if they have loved ones who miss them... Socially slow — will assume other people actually want to talk about legalizing hemp and the benefits of a polyamorous ethos when all these other folks really want is to drink beer and play Grand Theft Auto 3. Libertarianism the official political system of science fiction authors, which explains why science fiction is in such a rut these days... 
Back when I first read it (about 2007, maybe earlier), I wasn't entirely sure why Scalzi was chewing out libertarians for screwing up modern sci-fi literature (unless he was tuned out by John Ringo's stuff).  I hadn't noticed Scalzi was getting his works being published when I first read this (he's updated / upgraded the blog site since last I visited, back then I didn't see the About The Writer or a link to his books).  But now I'm looking at his career and I see why he's pissed.

Scalzi's been involved in publishing and editing for more than a decade, some of it in traditional markets and a few years working with science fiction pubs.  As such, he's probably been exposed to more horrifically bad science fiction story submissions than the average Human,Vulcan, Klingon, Minbari, Silurian, or small furry creature from Alpha Centauri.

This is part of the Sturgeon's Law: that 90 percent of everything is shit.  Since Sturgeon was an acclaimed sci-fi writer, he came up with what he called the revelation when he got tired of defending science fiction as a genre when the critics kept using the worst of sci-fi - the bad aliens, the bland ideologies, the squicky sex - to belittle it.  And in a way, Sturgeon is right about 90 percent of the stuff out there is bad, regardless of genre or format: 90 percent movies, 90 percent music, 90 percent art, 90 percent fashion, some of that shit is bad shit.  It's just that the worst of that 90 percent, well it rankles on you if you're a fervent lover of that music/fashion/art/film/literature genre.  You live for the 10 percent that wows and enjoys and delights, but if you get nothing but shit most of the time it's gonna make you jaded at best.

So in a way I see where Scalzi's coming from when he dumped on libertarianism like that in his article.  He's probably seen one too many sci-fi fantasy stories of a Randian-inspired utopia filled with bland archetypes and bad sex.  And he's pretty much right about it dominating and ruining a lot of current sci-fi: a lot of libertarians love to write speculative fiction / alternate world stories where their ideology can flourish (since, as I've noted meself, utopias don't flourish in the real world), which gets it shoved into the science fiction shelves at your local ebook retailer.

I hope this means I grok Scalzi's political stance.  Probably not, there may be nuances to his ideology that drives his world-view.  But I'm damn certain I know why he hates libertarians: it's all that self-indulgent terrible writing (and it's getting worse now that there's cheap self-publishing and no editorial control).  Damn you, libertarians: why can't you write more Harlequin romance novels and leave us geeks alone...

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